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Noctua NH-D15 review – Is it worth it?

Last Updated on June 7, 2024
NH D15 Cooler in box featured image
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The Noctua NH-D15 is a double-decker air cooler designed to take on the demand of the modern CPU silently. We call it a double-decker because it has 2 heatsinks and a pair of fans, as opposed to the traditional singular setup. The D15 has been around for some time now, being initially released in 2014, but is scheduled to undergo a next-gen update in Q2 2024, so if you need more cooling power, you might be best off waiting for that.

This cooler is very popular in the air cooler market for many reasons, mainly its cooling performance. But Noctua has an industry-recognized aesthetic that works seamlessly in almost any build. Not only that but the reliability of Noctua coolers is almost unrivaled. But before we can delve into the performance of the Gen1 cooler, let’s check out what we get in the box.

Highly Recommended
4 /5
Editor’s Rating
How We Review
Specifications
  • Cooling Method: Air
  • Material: Aluminium, Copper
  • Max fan speed: 1500 rpm
  • Noise level: 24.6 dBA
  • Fan size: 140mm
  • Thermal paste: Included
What We Think

The NH-D15 from Noctua is a fantastic cooler with a brilliant value for money, it is capable of cooling many CPUs in the higher end thanks to it’s double stack heatsink and dual 140mm fans. There is a refresh scheduled for the end of June 2024, so if you’re after more performance, you might want to wait until that.

Reasons to Buy
  • Dual 140mm fans makes cooling a breeze.
  • Double stack heatsink makes for great cooling performance.
  • Easy (but strange) mounting solution.
  • Included high quality thermal paste.
Reasons to Avoid
  • Quiet mode on the fans can let temps climb.
  • Big and bulky.
  • Fan design is to a certain taste, although a black version of this cooler is available
✓ Review Summary

Why we gave this a 4

The Noctua NH-D15 is a fantastic CPU cooler if your CPU has a TDP of around 150W, the silent operation of this cooler might be it’s downfall. The D15 could probably handle way more than it does, if the fans spun at a higher speed. None the less, this cooler is well equipped to handle less powerful CPUs, and does keep the temperature comfortable on our 14600K. We just can’t help but feel that it could be better.

What’s in the box

The box contains everything you need to get up and running, as it should. All of the components are well-packaged and neatly laid out. Here’s a complete list of the contents contained within:

  • Silver NH-D15 heatsink.
  • 2x NF-A15 PWM premium fan
  • 2x NA-RC7 Low-Noise Adaptor (L.N.A)
  • NA-YC1 4-pin PWM splitter cable
  • NT-H1 high-grade thermal compound
  • SecuFirm2™ mounting kit
  • Noctua metal case-badge
  • Warranty and user information

The mounting system covers most of the motherboard sockets for AMD and Intel, both old and new including Intel: LGA1851, LGA1700, LGA1200, LGA1156, LGA1155, LGA1151, LGA1150, and AMD: AM5, AM4.

Design

The design of this Noctua cooler features dual aluminum heatsinks and 6 vaper chamber heat pipes all made from copper and aluminum, to maximize the cooling potential of the D15. The fan’s screwless design makes installing and uninstalling simple, although finicky. I wish there was a little more play on the mounting wire, as it tends to hurt your fingers when you try to install it.

the fans come in that creamy Noctua brown we’ve all come to love (or hate) but there is a completely blacked-out version of this cooler if that’s more your thing. Speaking of fans, these spin at around 1,500 rpm and are silent when doing so. They can get away with spinning less because they are a larger size of 140mm. However, you can reduce this speed down to 1200 rpm with the included low-noise adapter.

Noctua includes a premium thermal paste in all of its coolers, and this is no exception. Pre-applied thermal paste would surely be easier for some, but there’s nothing more satisfying than installing your own. Only you are to blame if you make a big mess.

Installation

Overall, the installation process isn’t difficult at all, but it can be a little finicky. Noctua has pretty much mastered CPU coolers by now, but their mounting system is so far outside the norm, that it does look a little strange. In practice, it’s easier, especially if you’re on the LGA (intel) socket.

As respected, you have to attach a backplate to the motherboard if you’re using one from Intel, so what you do is mount all of the hardware, including the support arms to the backplate once it’s installed, along with the rubber spacers provided. Then all you do is screw the spring-loaded screws onto the mount you just built. I’d say it’s slightly trickier than attaching the mount to the cooler and then installing it, but the way it’s set out makes sense in this situation.

Noctua has included a long screwdriver to use to get the cooler onto the motherboard, there’s also cutouts in the heating to be able to access the acres without removing all the fans, though you may have to remove one. It’s this kind of design and attention to detail that we like to see in a product. even though it steps outside the norm, it’s genuine ingenuity.

Performance

Before we get into the performance of this CPU cooler, we need to establish the hardware it was tested on. This will give you an idea of why the rig gets as hot as it does sometimes. If you want to know more about how we test our CPU coolers, you can take a look at our PCGuide Labs page. There it explains how we test everything from CPUs to CPU coolers, to GPUs.

The components we used on the test bench are as follows:

ComponentName
CPUCore i5-14600K
MemoryCorsair Vengence @ 6400MHz
MotherboardCrosshair Dark Hero Z790
GPURTX 4070 Ti Super
Power supplyASUS ROG Thor 1000W
CaseCooler Master Masterframe

Now when you’re staring at the temperatures, you’ll know that the very hot 14600K is to blame. We don’t technically need a GPU here, but we’re trying to simulate a real-world scenario here, with a full rig.

Idle cooling performance

Idle cooling performance
CPU temp 33°C (core temp average)
CPU temp 34°C (max temp)
Air temp behind fans 27.5°C
throttle 0%

As you can see, the CPU temperature is okay, but it’s not the best it could be. The issue arises from this being the older noctua cooler, we’re sure the refresh will perform much better. The air from the rear of the fans is a couple of degrees warmer than we are used to, probably because the fans are spinning slower than most other coolers to stay silent.

Aida Stress test cooling performance

Aida Stress test cooling performance
CPU temp 70°C (core temp average)
CPU temp 86°C (max temp)
Air temp behind fans 30.2°C
throttle 0%

Compared to the other Air CPU coolers we have tested, these results are pretty good for the Aida stress test, remember, Aida pushes your CPU far beyond standard usage and really represents a worst-case scenario in terms of CPU usage and temperature. When the temps start to climb, those Noctua 140mm fans start to kick in. We still have around 10 degrees available before the CPU hits its throttling temperature.

Blender cooling performance

Blender cooling performance
CPU temp 67°C (core temp average)
CPU temp 72°C (max temp)
Air temp behind fans 28.8°C
throttle 0%

Blender is a 3D modeling software that can be very taxing on your CPU when rendering complex frames and scenes. This one is for you 3D creatives out there. As you can see, the CPU doesn’t throttle at all, despite the intense workload, and seems to sit quite comfortably at around 67 degrees. The maximum temperature does spike to around 72, but the 140mm fans and double heatsink stacks once again control the situation before the 14600K has a chance to throttle.

Handbrake ToS cooling performance

Handbrake ToS cooling performance
CPU temp 71°C (core temp average)
CPU temp 82°C (max temp)
Air temp behind fans 30.7°C
throttle 0%

Handbrake is a video encoder that we use to measure a CPU’s proficiency in, well, encoding video. This task has proven pretty strenuous for the 14600K as it gets very hot during this benchmark. Again, the beefy Noctua stops thermal throttling in its tracks, not only defeating the performance-reducing demon but also keeping the temperature steady at around 71 degrees.

If you’re just cooling CPUs under 150W, then the D15 will suffice, anything over that, you might run into some throttling issues. This cooler did do better than the Hyper 212 we reviewed recently, and rightly so, this cooler costs a lot more, is a lot bigger, and has a much better reputation for quality cooling.

What do these benchmarks mean?

We conduct a wide range of benchmarks to understand how well the CPU coolers perform. The reason we cast such a wide net, is the fact that not everyone uses their CPUs for the same purpose, so they have different needs in terms of heat eradication. Generally, we look for lower numbers when benchmarking CPU coolers, as lower temperatures leave more headroom for the TJmax (the temperature at which the CPU throttles to prevent thermal damage). And, as you may know, the more headroom we have, the further we can push CPU performance, as temperature is usually the most limiting factor.

Lower temperatures are better, so we are looking for the CPU cooler with the lowest temperature overall throughout all of our tests, this will show the CPU as being well-rounded and suitable for a wide range of workloads. And with that, let’s get into the performance of this CPU cooler from Noctua.

Price

The CPU cooler isn’t very expensive, but it’s not in the budget either. It is on the high side for an air cooler, but thanks to it being around for so many years, we can often find a really good deal on it during sales periods. Right now, you can pick up a D15 for around $99. Amazon price tracker, Camelcamelcamel, shows that the best-ever price for this CPU cooler was $79, but that was back around June 2017. Nowadays, it hovers around $90 on average, but you can always pick one up second-hand if that’s too far out of your budget.

Conclusion

The Noctua cooler we’re testing today is certainly capable of keeping thermal throttling at bay, but the temperatures aren’t exactly AIO level, of course, that makes sense, given the fact this CPU cooler isn’t an AIO. The D15 is about to undergo a next-generation transformation that will hopefully reduce temperatures a little. We should see that at some point at the end of June 2024.

Highly Recommended
4 /5
Editor’s Rating
How We Review
Specifications
  • Cooling Method: Air
  • Material: Aluminium, Copper
  • Max fan speed: 1500 rpm
  • Noise level: 24.6 dBA
  • Fan size: 140mm
  • Thermal paste: Included

For the 14600K, this cooler is okay, it’ll easily cool any other CPU below 150W no matter the workload. If you can find this COU cooler for less than $90 and you aren’t trying to cool a 14900K or anything to that end, then this CPU cooler would be perfect for you. Just make sure you have room in your PC case, as we don’t see this cooler fitting in anything below a standard ATX. But apart from that, this cooler is top-notch.

Jack Howarth, a Tech Writer at PC Guide, is deeply passionate about technology. He started his journey during college, earning an Extended Diploma in ICT, and CompTIA A+ later in life.